MAPS 4 would dedicate millions for youth and senior facilities
$110 million would go toward youth centers, with $30 million dedicated to a new senior center and scholarships
As MAPS 4 proposes a massive project to build youth facilities, the impact of youth investment is already visible at Oklahoma City’s few existing centers.
Jed Chappell, a local pastor, sees it every day at the Oklahoma City Center, a neighborhood youth resource center he co-founded with his wife, Julie, in Warr Acres.
The City Center and its holistic approach to serving children gave inspiration for the MAPS 4 youth center plan. City Parks and Recreation Director Doug Kupper called Chappell’s operation a “guiding light” for the MAPS 4 project.
“We are a fence at the top of a cliff that’s catching young people before they fall over the edge,” Chappell said. “Because here’s the reality, building hospitals at the bottom of that cliff is far more expensive and far more difficult to manage.”
MAPS 4 contains 16 projects costing an estimated $978 million. Funds for the project would be generated by a one-cent sales tax in Oklahoma City.
The youth centers make up the second most expensive project, with $110 million dedicated to building and operating at least four youth facilities that could end up operating like Chappell’s City Center.
City Center welcomes 75 to 100 students a day in a 12,000-square-foot former church building next to Putnam City schools. Though the modest center might be a far cry from the new multi-million-dollar facilities that could come from MAPS 4, the City Center offers a similar structure for serving youth.
A kitchen, cafeteria, clothes closet and homework room welcome students walking in the City Center’s front door. The first features inside the building are designed to accommodate basic needs — food, clothes, education and companionship.
These are all possible features of the MAPS 4 youth centers, Kupper said. They could provide space for activities, athletics and fine arts, with age-specific programming from infants to teenagers.
But, these centers would be heavily focused on meeting needs, Kupper said. The youth facilities are likely to focus more on social services than gyms or pools, unlike the MAPS senior centers or the recreation center planned for Douglass Park.
We are a fence at the top of a cliff that’s catching young people before they fall over the edge.”
Services for mental health, academic tutoring, mentorship and teen-parent assistance could be on the table.
“If we don’t protect the youth and give them guidance and give them the mentoring and the family unity that they need, then they’re going to seek it out elsewhere,” Kupper said. “Usually, it’s the wrong element that gives them that.”
The sales tax plan also includes $30 million for another senior center, adding to the four funded through MAPS 3. The project splits $15 million to build the senior center and $15 million for scholarships for low-income senior citizens using MAPS centers.
The number of youth centers to be built remains open ended, with only a minimum of four specified. The project sets aside $70 million for construction, $30 million for operations and $10 million for future capital improvements.
Local nonprofits and other government agencies could have a presence in the centers to give a wider scope of services.
“If we can set a model, who knows, maybe the next MAPS will build a couple more,” Kupper said. “We’re adding a fifth senior health and wellness (center) into MAPS 4 because we’ve seen the success of the two that had been building and the request of needs for the two that are still to be built with MAPS 3.”
Working behind the scenes is Tim McLaughlin, local nonprofit organizer and part-owner of OKC Energy FC. McLaughlin’s organization Fields and Futures has renovated athletic fields for Oklahoma City Public Schools for seven years.
Fields and Futures staff noticed a lack of programming for students over the summer, McLaughlin said. This led the nonprofit’s team to get involved with the youth center initiative, helping develop ideas for locations, features and services.
The accessible, neighborhood model of the City Center and The Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County inspired plans for the MAPS project, McLaughlin said. Both collaborate with their area school districts and work with outside partners to provide services.
“It’s walking distance; it’s accessible,” McLaughlin said. “You don’t have to get on the bus to get there. You need it in accessible areas. That was, I think, the thought process for us. We started mapping that out. What would this look like? Where could they go? Where should they go?”
The city will develop a clearer picture of youth center locations and services if MAPS 4 is approved in a public vote Dec. 10, Kupper said.
The Boys and Girls Clubs hope to have heavy involvement with the MAPS 4 youth centers, CEO Jane Sutter said. The organization already operates its own center at Memorial Park and has sites in Oklahoma City schools.
A successful youth center depends on more than the facility or the programs hosted inside, Sutter said. The most effective piece is the rapport built between the staff and children.
“Kind of the secret sauce or the glue that keeps kids coming back is in those positive adult relationships because not all of them have that necessarily in their neighborhoods or in their homes or in their schools,” Sutter said. “It’s about programming, but it’s also about consistent positive relationships. So, an important element is a staffing model that gives kids an opportunity to develop a relationship over multiple years with the same staff people.”
What will you pay?
The Oklahoman’s MAPS 4 cost calculator can help you estimate how much of your sales tax would be allocated to MAPS 4 if the project is approved. Enter in an estimated monthly amount spent on items subject to sales tax — things like groceries, clothes, home supplies, decorations or other tangible products — to see how much MAPS 4 could cost you over the next 8 years.